Gaming with Kids


Keep in mind that video games are such a major part of the culture that many of her friends will play them as she grows up, so she will likely gravitate towards them.

I actually eased back on the video games for my son because I was afraid I introduced them too early and didn’t want him too interested in them before he had even learned important things, like how to read. Now, though, he’s running around the neighborhood with his friends and the all have video games so sometimes he plays. I’m actually loading up on multiplayer games to encourage him and his friends to hang out at our house sometimes.


4 year old was out at a birthday party this afternoon, so it was the 6 year old and I. Post bike riding, backyardosense, and coloring…

Couldn’t take another damn game of Candyland. Set the stage with, “Want to play a grown-up game?” Eyes light up… cue Ticket to Ride. Thankfully, the 10th Anniversary Edition, so big train pieces, big board, etc.

Halfway through: “I don’t understand this.” Says the girl whooping me by about 40 points. I like to think I’d have won in the end, since she didn’t really grasp the routes or fuckery (that I avoided in the interest of continued gaming sessions) aspects, but it was definitely a nice intro to an actual board game (yup, fuck you Cha-Cha-Chihuahua) and some quality time with the kid. Fantastic afternoon all in all.

And for those of you blessedly unfamiliarized…

ETA: the mere phrase “peppy perritos” made me down my Ardbeg Corryvrecken in nearly one shot…

The Actual Table

Ticket to Ride First Journey is a pretty big hit with my wife (minor miracle) and 8-year-old.

The 4-year-old, however, gets pissed when he can’t connect “Leprechaun land” (Dublin) to “Bull land” (Madrid).

I’ve seen this at Target, so it could be a worthwhile pickup.


Love a good top list, but perhaps some inspiration for those with smaller kids?


The earliest game I’d consider is Go Away, Monster!, which is playable for many kids even before they turn two and which, with very simple components, does a ton a cool stuff. Player’s try to match shapes by feel and sight, practice taking control of their fears, and there’s a rules variant (might even be the default) in which, if you get something you don’t need, you share it with someone who does. I love this as a first game.

The first co-op I played with my kids (I think when they were two) was Max. They liked it, but it was boring for me, I never liked the aesthetics of it, and they didn’t seem to connect with even the limited strategy of it very well (there’s a degree of don’t-eat-the-marshmallow to holding off on saving the cutest animal right away in order to try and save them all which just never seemed age-appropriate). Still, it was a game they could play and comprehend the rules, so I was very grateful for it at the time.


We play Hopple Popple with the same house-rule with my 2 year-old. Colors and shapes, plus the concept of boards one has to fill. It’s been a solid first game. But I’m going to order Go Away Monster today : )


It’s a good list. I like playing the co-op games because there’s fewer hard feelings.

From the ones listed, we have Hoot Owl Hoot and Outfoxed. I vastly prefer Outfoxed because it has simple but meaningful choices (flip a suspect or move to a clue), and it teaches logic. After just a few games, my then 7-yo had the logic rules to eliminate or keep suspects down.

Hoot Owl Hoot is fine, but there are better options. The only choice is which owl to move, and there’s a clear optimal strategy (move the furthest one back).

Both my kids love Ghost Fighting’ Treasure Hunters, but that one skews a little older because it’s tuned to be harder to win.


Does anyone have any ideas for a history-based game that a kid can learn? My son is reading about the American Revolution and just got some model WWII planes and I’d like to get something on the table to play. Right now I’m leaning towards Memoir ‘44, but am also looking for other ideas. I don’t expect him to get the strategy, but he’d understand the mechanics.


The Timeline series of games is very good. I linked to the American History one, but they have others, a few of which have just been reissued. Very easy to learn, lots of fun to play, and you can easily mix the various sets. Not a ton of strategy by any means, but suitable for any age, really.


How old are we talking?

The Battle for Hill 218 is quick to learn and play, but the theme is neither strong nor instructive. Freedom: The Underground Railroad sounds wonderful for an older child. Founding Fathers also got a lot of press a while back for middle/high school age history gaming.

I wouldn’t aim to play with my kids, but having Liberty or Death out for solo play was great for starting conversations about the war and political context with them—they were surprisingly interested, and had a longer-than-usual attention span for my ebullient discourses on how the mechanics conveyed the realities of the situation. The historical notes on each card helped put it in context for me so that I could explain things for them, and simply having the map with troop dispositions which could easily move around made it a great learning tool. That might scratch the history itch even if you never play a real game. Of course, the same is presumably true of lots of games, and something like Sekigahara is at least more likely to be within reach as a game while still conveying the unique uncertainties of that war, but the historical notes or most games are less impressive.


He’s only 6, and is reading at probably a 1st grade level. The reason I was thinking Memoir was because of all the pieces. He’s really interested in history but it also needs to be accessible and hold his attention.


Then Memoir seems a solid choice. You might simplify things a bit, depending on how he does with games and complications. I agree with @biffpow that Timeline might also work well. I and my kids found the game itself not very interesting, but it’s pretty popular.

You might also consider some sort of civ-builder. Things like wonders and technological advances are often historically accurate, even if the events in the game are novel.


My 6-year-old saw Imperial Assault on my shelf and begged me to play it. I bought it a year ago but never bothered to learn as it seemed a bit too fiddly for me. I agreed to play it with him if he would watch a tutorial video, which I assumed would put him to sleep. My son, who can’t sit still for more than a minute, proceeded to watch a 45-minute tutorial and immediately asked me to play. We’ve now gone through the tutorial on the companion app and I’m having a blast with him. He completely understands the mechanics and really only needs help with the keywords. He’s even corrected me on some rules. The game isn’t a kids game, but if you can get your kid playing, it is a blast.


I’ve recently discovered the Scribblenauts series and highly recommend it for early readers (and probably anyone else for that matter). The basic concept is that you are given a puzzle and you can type in just about any word to have that item appear in game. There are some IAP packs for historical figures, fantasy creatures, and some other such “vocab packs,” but the game has an impressive dictionary and kids can be very creative. Plus, since they need to be able to spell in order to actually write what they want, it encourages that skill. I have Scribblenauts Redux on iOS, but I think you can find at least one version of the game in just about every system.


So, does anyone let their kids play minecraft or fort nite?

I am strongly against anything lootboxes and emphemeral. I want mine playing civilisation or something with meat and depth


I agree with the lootbox thing. I do let my son play Minecraft. Are there loot boxes in that? I never noticed. He’s not allowed online and just plays the sandbox mode solo, though, so perhaps that’s why I haven’t seen loot boxes?


We tried Fortnite. I would consider allowing them to return to it if chat could be turned off entirely—there’s some abusive talk, even when it isn’t racist or otherwise deplorable. But, having been insulted by “teammates” the one time he played, my son never got the bug.

Minecraft they’ve played a lot with a neighbor on iPads, and have never bought loot for. It’s been fine—my big concern with it is that, when they play in a shared world, my neighbor is basically a good-natured griefer. I think he’s mostly looking for direct interaction, but ends up messing up other kids’ creations and then (usually) trying to make amends.


An oldie but a goodie - Mini Metro, especially in endless mode. My 6 year old loves playing it. She kind of grasps the regular mode, but more enjoys just building the lines in endless


Hmmm, this is a good idea. My daughter’s iPad uses my account, I should add Mini Metro onto her ipad, she has seen me play it before.


We just picked up Dinosaur Tea Party, and it’s a hit. My kids love looking at the dinosaur art and faking overdone manners. This is another one that teaches deduction and logic, since you have to deduce the other players’ cards three times to win. It says 7+, but my almost 5-year-old figured out the basics pretty quickly and started memorizing the dinosaur names.

When I was poking around the publisher’s website, I noticed their Unmatched Tactical card battler. Has anyone tried this? If so, do you think a 9-year-old could understand and enjoy it? He’s played One Deck Dungeon, but we don’t break it out much because we can’t include his little brother. It sounds like Unmatched supports a 3-player team battle, which would be a win.